By Roger Showley
The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Q: Are extended parental leave policies good for employers?
Marney Cox, San Diego Association of Governments
Research on existing paid-leave programs show that cost are negligible–including temporary employee replacement and overtime paid to existing employees; and there are gains in terms of employee morale and productivity. However, existing policies in the U.S. rank near the bottom out of 185 countries in the world, so the bar is low. Some employers offer enhanced programs, so about 48 percent of employees receive full pay and another 17 percent receive partial pay.
Phil Blair, Manpower
Like everything else it depends on the industry and corporate culture. I recently read about a company that is now giving one-year maternity leave to their employees, be it the baby’s mother or father. This is very expensive and even something more reasonable is also expensive. What if after an extended time at home, the employees decide not to come back to work. Will this policy really attract and keep a superior employee or just one who is in the child-bearing ages? Can you offer it to management and not line workers who are easily replaceable? And can you rescind the policy if it becomes prohibitively expensive or ineffective? And of course what are your competitors doing?
Kelly Cunningham, National University System
It makes sense, especially for companies, such as Netflix and Microsoft, to offer extended leave, as competition for technically skilled talent has never been fiercer. Allowing employees to strike a balance between work and home is advantageous particularly as work becomes more intellectually challenging. Mandating such policies by imposing one-size-fits-all government requirements, however, is not necessary or useful. Companies should implement policies to fit needs of their own workforce and business operations.
Alan Gin, University of San Diego
Extended parental leave is another benefit that the high-tech companies have to give to attract and keep top talent. It’s unfortunate, though, that this benefit usually doesn’t apply to lower-income employees, who probably need it more. This then further widens the gap between the haves and the have nots. Only 11 percent of workers in this country, mostly at the high end, have this benefit as the U.S. remains the only industrialized country without mandated paid leave for parents.
James Hamilton, University of California San Diego
They certainly can be. A variety of job characteristics matter to employees in addition to the salary, such as benefits, working conditions, flexible hours, and extended parental leave. It may be that by being more generous in one dimension employers can save costs in another and still keep their best employees. But obviously it depends very much on the particular type of work being performed, the employer’s flexibility, and the employee’s priorities.
Jamie Moraga, intelliSolutions
It can be good for global tech companies that are fighting to recruit and retain the best and brightest in the war for talent. As a mother of an infant, this policy is very attractive. Yet as a small-business owner, I don’t see how it can be feasible for small businesses to follow suit. Lost productivity, indirect cost burdens, and retraining are big considerations. Larger employers like Netflix and Microsoft can absorb these costs to keep a competitive advantage. Only time will tell if this benefit will outweigh the costs — intended or unintended.
Gary London, The London Group Realty Advisors
This sends the right signal to employees, although I understand that they seldom over-indulge because of competitive peer pressure. I would set certain rules. For instance, there would be a contract that stipulates that beyond normal “vacation” time, if you leave the company early, you take a pay hit. And I think this could only apply to larger companies. But I like the idea of work/life balance with everyone participating.
Gail Naughton, Histogen
Attraction and retention of the most talented employees is extremely important, particularly in highly competitive, creativity-driven industries. Corporate actions which are socially conscious and clearly show support of family culture, employee appreciation, and an increase in gender diversity in the workforce are key. In addition, due to the evolution of electronic communication millennials do not see a clear separation between office and home and productive, customized remote working relationships will certainly be the trend.
Norm Miller, University of San Diego
Requiring longer parental leaves alone is insufficient to claim benefits for employers. The broader truth is that more flexible work schedules, part time to full time, with flexible hours, at home or elsewhere, if possible, allows employers to retain valuable staff they might otherwise lose. Progressive employers allow employees to pick a work schedule, compensation and benefit package that allows trade offs that maximize the appeal to stay with a firm and be more productive while working.
Austin Neudecker, Rev
Extending parental leave for medium-plus companies is a win for all parties: Kids get the care they need at a vital development stage, parents are happier and return to work at a higher rate and employers lose less talent while improving morale, productivity, and often profitability.
Bob Rauch, R.A. Rauch and Associates
Employers struggle with extended parental leave because in today’s collaborative work environments, extended parental leaves cause a disruption to the work-flow dynamic. Further, it may be possible for very large corporations to provide unlimited parental leave for the first year after birth because they have vast resources at their disposal. As a small business owner, such a policy is not financially feasible. Hence, generally speaking, extended parental leave policies are not good for most employers.
Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University
Most employers granting extended parental leave have either seen higher or unchanged near-term profits. Companies gain from the longer-term benefits of reduced employee turnover, higher morale, and better productivity. The ability to retain talented women and gain the insights of mothers is highly valuable. Fewer infant illnesses with more intensive early care could reduce health-care premiums. Extended parental leave should not be an unfunded mandate, but many firms may find it their own best interest.
John Sarkisian, SKLZ
We must assume that a company that makes decisions it believes are in the best interest of all of its stakeholders. Companies understand their employees are the most important asset on the balance sheet. Therefore making changes in employee benefits that reflect the needs, they determine are valued by their employees, are good for all company stakeholders.
Dan Seiver, Reilly Financial Advisors
They should improve productivity enough to offset the short-term costs. Happier and more loyal employees work harder. But for most companies and most employees, extended leave will be an empty gesture, since so many employees do not even use up their annual vacation allotment.
Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health
I am a big believer in families and work-life balance and I think the state of California already requires very generous leave benefits of employers. I think it’s commendable that very profitable companies like Microsoft and others can expand their benefits as recruitment and retention tools. But not all companies can afford to do that, so I’m not in favor of expanding family leave even more in the state by regulation or mandate.